The Morning After: Thoughts, notes and anything else that didn’t quite make this space after North Carolina’s latest game (in this case, the No. 4/6 Tar Heels' 84-78 victory over Long Beach State on Saturday night).
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – In the final seconds Saturday night, North Carolina junior John Henson punctuated his best offensive performance of the season – and one of the best of his career – with a crowd-wowing dunk.
No doubt, the forward’s 24 points were key to UNC’s survival against Long Beach State.
But his old bread-and-butter – the blocked shot – might have been even moreso down the stretch.
On three separate possessions in the final four minutes of the game – with the 49ers trailing by only 6 points each time – Henson rejected an LBSU shot in the lane. (On one, he actually snatched the ball away from a 49er, in what will surely be added to a head-shaking Henson highlight reel somewhere.)
Henson, last season's ACC Defensive Player of the Year, was pleased by his offensive output, but “I’d rather have the blocks,’’ he said, grinning. “The blocks stop points, and gets us our next possession. That’s what we want at the end of the day.”
In all, he finished with 4 blocks and 10 rebounds, although teammates say the points help, too.
“When he hit those big shots to begin the game from on top of the free-throw line, I thought, ‘Yeah, he’s still feeling it from the pregame,’” said teammate Reggie Bullock, adding that Henson didn’t miss when they were shooting together during warm-ups. “John, once he gets his confidence, he’s one of the great shooters on our team, too.
“He plays all-around -- he’s on the boards, knocking down shots, blocking them. He’s one of the best all-around players I’ve ever played against.”
1,000, AND COUNTING: After coming up one point short of 1,000 for his career on Tuesday, senior forward Tyler Zeller said he was determined to get it over with early on Saturday night. And he did, scoring the Tar Heels’ fourth bucket of the game.
He is the 64th UNC player to reach quadruple digits, and when his milestone was announced, he received a standing ovation from some in the Smith Center crowd.
“It’s a great honor,” Zeller said. “It’s something I’m really proud of. But I’ve got to give credit to my teammates. As a big, I don’t really create for myself; I don’t really do anything like that. All of my teammates have done a great job getting me the ball in places where I can score.”
QUOTABLE: UNC coach Roy Williams: “I got on Harrison [Barnes] and Dexter [Strickland] at halftime. Our starting 2 and 3 had played 28 minutes and had zero rebounds between them, the same number as Wanda [Williams, his wife].”